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‘Third Grade Gate’ Clears Another Legislative Hurdle

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 27 Feb 2013 06:42pm | comments

A bill to hold back Mississippi third graders if they cannot read on grade level has cleared another legislative hurdle. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that measure is one of more than a dozen education reform goals to pass through a house committee.

Retaining students who cannot read at a third grade level is one of the most high profile education changes the committee education committee signed off on Wednesday.

One of the bills main sponsors, Representative Rita Martinson of Madison, says passing kids who cannot read onto the fourth grade has not worked to improve reading Mississippi.

"It has not helped any of us. It doesn't help the adults in the community. It doesn't help business. It doesn't help the children. And that is the main reason I want them to learn at a very early level," Martinson said.

But opposition to the bill is beginning to mount.

During the meeting, Committee member Gregory Holloway of Hazelhurst says the bill fails to address the fact that children come to school with vastly different levels of readiness.

"Because some kids do not have parents who have the resources to allow those kids to be on that level. Some parents can afford Hook on Phonics. They can afford games and things like that before they get to kindergarten," Holloway said.

Committee members also point out that there is no money in the bill to improve teachers or class room instruction.

Education advocate Nancy Loome with the Parents Campaign says that is a major missing element.

"It doesn't provide anything that changes the level of instruction for those child. And as some of the members said today, if we approach reading in that way we are just going to drive up the drop out rate. If we are just retaining children without providing them anything better," Loome said.

The committee did not vote on the Senate version of bill expanding charter schools, which is one of the most controversial and highly sought after items remaining.

The deadline for that vote is Tuesday.

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